I have a short, sweet guest post today from a writer named Christian Ray Flores about “practicing a weekly Sabbath day.” I found it interesting because Christian never mentions religion or God in the piece, and so I inferred that he was writing about spiritual habits, but from an atheist or at least non-religious perspective.
I’ve written here before about one of my favorite college classroom memories: when I took Music 101 at Jesuit-run Fairfield University, and my professor, Orin Grossman, got a bunch of blank looks when he mentioned the Protestant Reformation.
He launched into a 90-second historical summary, and then lost himself in laughter, hardly able to speak:
“Oh, how I love America … Only in this beautiful country… could you have a Jew… stand up in a class full of Catholics… and give a lecture about the Protestant Reformation.”
Anyway: Very different story, but similar theme, I thought. Only, as it turns out, Christian told me after I asked if I could share his article that he is in fact Christian.
(This sounds like I’m making a joke; I’m not: his name is Christian, and he practices Christianity.)
“I do write ‘in between worlds’ because life wisdom is like gravity, it doesn’t require our belief to work,” he told me. “The Sabbath is a good example. As you noted - it’s good for you regardless. … Does this help?”
I think it helps for my purposes. Let’s see what you all have to say. Here’s Christian:
Why I keep the Sabbath
If I rest better, I work better. For over a decade now, I’ve practice a weekly Sabbath day. For me, this is a transformative practice that also overflows into the rest of the week with fulfilling and creative work. America is the sixth country and fourth continent I’ve lived in. It is, by far, the least healthy when it comes to work culture.
The Japanese, known for their intense work culture have a word for death from overwork: Karoshi
Look it up. It’s a thing.
Guess what? Americans work 137 more hours per year than the Japanese, 260 more than the British, and 499 more than the French. Mediterranean work cultures like Italy, Greece, and Spain are probably a category of their own.
Here’s what concerns me the most about American work culture. The most common answer to the question “How are you?” is “Busy”.
90% of us check the phone first upon waking up.
37% of us take fewer than 7 days of vacation a year.
14% of us take more than 2 weeks a year.
20% of us stay in touch with the office while on vacation.
As an international person, I wish I could say that’s madness and I won’t stand for it. Unfortunately, I’m very American when it comes to work. I love it, enjoy it, thrive in it, and usually have several projects going on simultaneously.
In the late 2000s, I stumbled upon a book called Sabbath: Ancient Practices by Dan Allender. The discovery of the treasure that is the Sabbath day has reshaped the very texture of my week, the orientation of my heart, and provided nourishment for my mind.
It’s incredibly relaxing and fulfilling, but it’s not easy. It is, paradoxically, a discipline and requires devotion. Every fiber of your western conditioning will rebel against it, starting with the classic six words that offer an easy out for anyone who simply does not want to do the work (see what I did there?) that leads to transformation.
The six words are “It’s easy for you to say”
If you’re intrigued and wondering if a Sabbath practice is for you, read on:
You may need a Sabbath practice if you…
live a parallel life with your children
feel uncomfortable being left alone with your thoughts
laugh sarcastically at the term “passion project”
have original ideas remain just that
feel guilty when you do nothing
wake up at night worrying about money
haven’t had a date with your spouse in months
have forgotten how wonder feels like
have accepted anxiety as a constant
sometimes feel like a slave while making a decent living
desperately long for delight
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, just as I did in the late 2000s, you may have stumbled upon a treasure.
My Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Here’s how it flows for my wife and I:
Lighting of candles
Prayers of gratitude
Unhurried enjoyment of Scriptures
Guiltless basking in Literature, Poetry, Art
Being present in the goodness of creation
Joyful time with close friends, parents, children
Favorite music and movies
Zero Business and Zero Busyness
All rest and delight
I’ve learned that when I live the Sabbath well, I live all seven days well.
You may want to give it a try.
You may want to start tomorrow.
About that survey…
One more day of me cajoling, begging, and just plain asking: If you haven’t filled out the anonymous Reader Happiness Survey yet, I’d appreciate you doing so. I also have a few questions that are about the future of the newsletter. I’d love for you to get your say before I think about making any changes. Thanks!
7 other things worth knowing today
Facebook’s parent company Meta is paying a consulting firm to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok. I’m not here to defend TikTok, but maybe keep this in mind if you see a study or an op-ed talking about how TikTok is a danger to kids, but Facebook is more benign. (WashPost)
President Biden got his fourth COVID shot and said he felt “wonderful” afterward. Not so wonderful for the Bidens: The U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings “has gained steam in recent months, with a flurry of witnesses providing testimony to federal investigators and more expected to provide interviews in the coming weeks.” (NY Post, CNN)
About 20 percent of Americans now say they run out of money before payday, up from 15 percent last year. Meanwhile, 53.2% of Americans evaluate their lives as "thriving" on Gallup's Live Evaluation Index, a sharp drop after Gallup said Americans reported a 14-year high mark of 59.2% last June. (CNBC, Gallup)
Etsy sellers say they’re going on strike in April and want customers to boycott. (The Verge)
Actor Bruce Willis is ‘stepping away’ from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia. (ET)
Eating two or more servings of avocado a week can cut the risk of heart disease by a fifth, according to a new study of 68,000 women and 41,000 men over 30 years. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. (The Independent)
A fugitive flamingo that escaped from a Kansas zoo in 2005 has been found in Texas. Zoo officials say they won’t bother to try to recapture the bird, because the statute of limitations has expired. Just kidding; it’s because they can’t do so without disturbing other animals. (Yahoo News)
Thanks for reading. Photos courtesy of Christian Ray Flores. Read his original piece and find more great work here. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.
Great perspective on saving time for your”self”, Bill. As for the errant flamingoes, perhaps the one who hasn’t shown up yet just got rid of his ankle id. He’s blending in. Smart bird! I wish the other one would do the same!
Their are atheists, who believe there is nothing else; agnostics, who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God; and there are the rest who believe in one of the many religious dogmas.
Regarding a sabbath, Covey addressed this with his Seven Habits for Highly Effective People through habit 7: sharpen the saw. He told the story of a man walking through the woods when he encountered another man frantically sawing at a log with no results. He asked the man why he did not stop to sharpen his saw. The other fellow said “I don’t have time to stop.”
The 7 Habits book is a wonderful distillation of 200 years of self-help books that shows the importance of and how to focus on character over personality.